The Shape of Matthew – 1

I guess this series should be called “A Structure of Matthew,” since there are so many interesting resources available. But of course, as usual, I reckon everyone else is wrong because the Bible Matrix is “the killer hermeneutic.” Ha! See what you think.

Matthew follows the fivefold Covenant structure, which is now fairly obvious thanks to Ray Sutton and Gary North who covered this years ago. But Matthew, as with all Bible books, shows signs of careful arrangement (often mistaken for haphazard cobbling together) down to minute levels. One discussion I found online critiqued an approach which divides the book into alternate blocs of narrative and discourse, like a responsive reading [PDF]. This approach is very interesting but the definitions have to get a little fuzzy to make it work.

For me, the images and subject matter are the key, and it does seem to play out. I won’t be dealing in these posts with the microstructure (line by line), only down to the level of each obvious change of subject. But you will still need your handy dandy Bible Matrix fracto-spatial helmet and Covenant goggles.

The “macrostructure” is as follows:



We can see the combination of the Creation Week and Israel’s festal calendar in this first great cycle.

Creation: Matthew 1 – Sabbath: Jesus’ Genealogy & Birth
Division: Matthew 2 – Passover: Jerusalem as Egypt
Ascension: Matthew 3 – Firstfruits: Baptism/Jesus in the Courts of God
Testing: Matthew 4 – Pentecost: Jesus in the Wilderness
Maturity: Matthew 5-7 – Trumpets: Laws for a New Israel
Conquest: Matthew 8 – Atonement: The Cleansing Begins
Glorification: Matthew 9 – Booths: A New House

The structures within Matthew 1-7 aren’t too hard to figure out at a basic level. Matthew 1 is wonderful, containing a Forming (a genealogy stylized as Covenant architecture), and a Filling (the story of Jesus’ birth). I have covered Matthew 2 in detail here, so you can see exactly how many levels at which the Spirit is speaking. Matthew 3 concerns the anointing of the Covenant Head, and Matthew 4 sees Jesus tested as Priest (Forming), King (Filling) and Prophet (Future). Matthew 5-7 contains the matrix structure at many levels, but the scene is Moses speaking to a new generation of Israel. The pattern is clear up to this point and this is where most commentators seem to lose track of things.

Matthew 8 seems to focus on the ministry of Jesus as the final High Priest.

Matthew 8 – Atonement
Jesus Cleanses a Leper (Genesis: Mountain/Serpent-skin/Priestly Linen)
Division: The Faith of a Centurion (Exodus: Hierarchy/true sons and Outer Darkness)
Ascension: The Words of Isaiah (Leviticus: Peter’s house, bearing diseases)
Testing: The Cost of Following Jesus (Numbers: Birds and Beasts, Burying the Dead)
Maturity: Jesus Calms a Storm (Deuteronomy: Winds and Sea, Voice of the Prophet to the Nations)
Conquest: Two Men with Demons (Joshua: Two Goats, Israel cleansed)
(No Glorification)

There is no “Judges” story here. All unbelieving Israel has symbolically been thrown into the Gentile “sea,” a prefigurement of the Jewish War and destruction of the Temple. Also, the book of Leviticus also is missing the final step, which concerns inheritance of the Land. Israel’s time in the Land was just about up.

The Transcendence section itself, however, does have a Glorification cycle. Hinting at a new kind of Temple, this appears to follows the furniture of the Tabernacle as it relates to the Creation Week. Jesus Himself is a tree of righteousness, a shelter, a house of rest.

Matthew 9 – Booths
Creation: Jesus’ Authority to Forgive – Ark of the Testimony
Division: Call of Matthew (hierarchy: a call to sinners) – Veil
Ascension: Fasting and Feasting (promise of new wine) – Altar and Table
Testing: A Girl Resurrected and a Barren Woman Healed
(Ruler’s House, womb and tomb) – Lampstand
Maturity: Two Blind Men Healed (legal witnesses) – Incense
Conquest: A Mute Man Healed (Covenant Oath/Clean Lips) – Mediators
Glorification: The Harvest is Plentiful (Ingathering) – Rule and Rest

Notice the condemnation of Jesus by the Pharisees concerning the healing of the mute: “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.” Jesus was doing what the High Priest in the Temple could not achieve.

If you have thoughts on any further correspondences in this first section, please feel free to share them.

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